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Barker needs to admit we are not prepared

Nick Smith MP National Party Acting Civil Defence Spokesman

16 May 2006

Barker needs to admit we are not prepared

"Civil Defence Minister Rick Barker has shown his contempt for the public by failing to admit the fatal flaws in New Zealand's emergency response planning," says National Party Acting Civil Defence spokesman Nick Smith.

"He's in total denial. Life and property are at risk but he refuses to admit his department's got major problems."

Dr Smith is commenting on the latest criticisms of the Government's emergency planning. There has been strong criticism of central government's role by regional civil defence organisations up and down the country.

"There's been a serious disconnect between the Ministry, which Mr Barker is in charge of, and the grassroots organisations.

"He cannot continue to ignore criticisms like those levelled by Canterbury Civil Defence, which says we're woefully ill-prepared; Wellington Civil Defence, which says planning is 'fatally flawed'; and advice that suggests there's a 'gaping hole' in the national emergency plan.

"Mr Barker still mistakenly believes the BBC was at fault for the botched response to the recent tsunami alert. It is simply ludicrous to blame a media outlet because Civil Defence in Wellington didn't answer their emergency phones."

Dr Smith is predicting this week's Civil Defence tsunami exercise will be relatively trouble free.

"It's happening during office hours and they've had plenty of warning so it should be okay. But during the only 'live' operation recently the Ministry was found wanting.

"Mr Barker needs to understand that natural and unnatural disasters can happen at any time. His Ministry needs to be ready to go at a moment's notice.

"He should stop passing the buck and start listening to regional civil defence operations which are always first to hit the ground during a disaster," says Dr Smith.

ENDS

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